June 2012 Site of the Month

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June 2012 Site of the Month

UT Libraries: Online Tour - Top Ten Things to Know About the Library


Authors: Rachel Radom, Rachel Gammons, Brian Stevens, David Alcorn

Interviewee: Rachel Radom

Institution: University of Tennessee Libraries

Interviewer: Leah Massar Bloom

Tutorial Description: This video presents the top ten things everyone should know about the Libraries at the University of Tennessee (UT) Knoxville. Students in UT's Society of Media Arts created the video for the Libraries.

Q: What was the impetus for this video, and who was the intended audience?

A: The University of Tennessee (UT) Libraries have been increasing instruction via online tutorials as a way to reach those students who may not experience a library instruction session during class time. In particular, this video was directed to new undergraduate students, either first year students or transfer students, who may benefit from a basic tour of the library, but who either have not had, or will not have, a library instruction session. This tutorial was also designed to accommodate those instructors who specifically request brief library tours (10-15 minutes long) but do not wish to schedule a more formal library session related to a research assignment. When appropriate, or when the library instruction schedule is very busy, this online tour may take the place of the brief librarian-led tour.

Q: Who was involved in the production? Were the students who created the video student workers? If not, was it part of a course?

A: Rachel Radom, an instructional services librarian, led the project with her graduate teaching assistant, Rachel Gammons. Brian Stevens and David Alcorn from the UT Society of Media Arts (SOMA), a UT student organization, produced the video with assistance and equipment from The Studio, the multimedia production lab at the UT Libraries, headed by Michelle Brannen. The students involved in making the video volunteered their time over the spring semester and part of the summer to create the video. The students are not library student workers, nor was the video part of a class assignment.

Q: How much information did you give the students who created the video? Did you give them a whole script, an outline of the top ten areas, or let them run completely free?

A: In fall 2010, Radom emailed UT Libraries staff members with a brief questionnaire about what they considered to be the five most important, or most often asked, questions that should be answered in an introductory video about the library. The email identified the main audience for the video as new undergraduate students. Radom also asked staff members who supervised student workers to forward the email to library student assistants. Fewer than five emails were returned, most from student assistants.

Based on the feedback from the questionnaire, and from personal experience leading instruction sessions, Radom identified ten topics to be addressed in the video. She generated a list of 2-3 things to be mentioned in the video for each top ten item, and Gammons added some of the library processes and library terminology that might be helpful for scriptwriters to know. Gammons discovered the SOMA group through a list of student organizations and arranged a meeting between the Libraries and two SOMA students. Before the meeting, the top ten list was sent out to instructional services staff for feedback and then the outline was shared with the two SOMA students who volunteered their time on the project. The students created a script draft, which went through an editing process with Radom and Gammons, and instructional services staff reviewed a final script before filming began.

The Libraries wanted the video to feel as if students created this for other students. We felt that the best way to accomplish this was through the video’s script and tone. We wanted the script to be largely in the voice of students, using layperson’s terms, and with a casual and welcoming feel to it, which is why we gave students the responsibility for writing the script. We also preferred the script to be written by students who were not library student workers; however, we also wanted the video to be accurate and to address what we perceived (from our public services staff and from our own experiences) to be the most academically helpful information for our new students to learn about the library.

Q: An intro video can be a bit overwhelming to create. How did you decide what the objectives would be?

A: Limiting the video to a set number of discussion points was a helpful way to keep it to a manageable length. It was also a good way to prioritize the discussion points. While some staff may wish that different topics were included in the video, knowing that there were only ten things we would address led to good discussions among instructional services staff about what was most important for first-year students to know about.

Key to the process was thinking of this video in terms of "welcoming" students, not "teaching" students. Our objectives were not learning objectives, but unstated and informal objectives related to reducing anxiety about the Libraries. We knew we would offer many teaching/learning videos related to using the Libraries, but we wanted to have at least one video that was inviting - hoping to make students interested enough in the Libraries that they might visit, or ask for help, or explore our other tutorials. However, assessment and learning objectives are always important, so we created a short online assessment associated with the video.

Q: Are students assigned this video by their instructors, or is it something optional that they choose to do on their own?

A: Some instructors in first year studies classes assign this video to students. The Libraries have created a short assessment for those instructors wanting to give credit for watching the video. For the most part, however, library instructors may show part of the video during instruction sessions, or students may discover the video on their own via our YouTube channel.

Q: How do you promote this video?

A: Promotion occurs in several ways. The first-year studies department is aware of the video and it is included in the list of library resources for first-year studies seminar instructors. A link to the video is often included in email communication to instructors requesting tours or library instruction. The Libraries also promotes our YouTube channel fairly heavily, and this is the default or primary video on our YouTube channel. In addition, this video is shown and promoted to new Graduate Teaching Assistants and new faculty each year as a resource to familiarize themselves and students with library resources and services.

Q: From planning to launch, how long did it take to complete this project? Was it more or less time than you originally had planned?

A: We had planned the project to take about three months, but it took about six months. The longer time frame was due to the fact that we were working with busy students who were volunteering their time. The Libraries did not have a hard and fast deadline, which helped in terms of flexibility.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you encountered when creating this tutorial?

A: The biggest challenges had to do with timing and communication. In terms of timing, our timeline for the video changed significantly due to students' busy schedules. Our students were volunteers, and it was difficult for them to stick to the given deadline given their course load and other commitments. So, we became flexible with our deadline, which put us behind a bit; however, it was worth it to us to wait a little longer if it meant we would have a student-produced product in the end. In terms of communication, it was difficult to find an effective means of communicating with students between meetings. We used email, but might have had more luck staying in touch with students if we had an alternative way of contacting them.

Q: What software or other tools were used to create the video?

A: Students used Final Cut Pro to edit the video. They borrowed cameras and recording equipment from The Studio, the multi-media lab in Hodges Library.

Q: Did anyone need special software training or other training to create it?

A: The students already had extensive experience with Final Cut Pro and with film editing, as they make films and work on films for courses and on their own time.

Q: Have many students viewed this video? What results have you received from the online assessment associated with the video?

A: Our YouTube channel shows that the video has been viewed over 950 times. This number includes incomplete views (people who didn’t watch the whole video) as well as library views (when a librarian leads an instruction session and shows all or part of the video). Eighty-five people have completed the online assessment related to the video, with over 95% of students answering at least 90% of the questions correctly.

Q: Were there other videos that inspired you to do this?

A: The biggest inspiration came from David Letterman’s Top Ten List motif.

Q: Do you have any advice for people embarking on similar projects?

A: Working with students is a beneficial experience. Their wording, tone, and filming skills made this video what it is. Asking for student insight and feedback at different points in the process was integral to the process. Starting the brainstorming process with student thoughts and ideas, all the way through having students write the script and star as actors, was a way to make sure that this was a video for students and by students.

On a practical note, incorporating a structure in a tutorial that helps students know how far they are in the process, or letting them know how much information will be covered in a video, is useful. Anecdotally, using the "top ten" idea seems to be a courtesy that’s appreciated and contributes to students’ ability to focus, since, at any moment, they know how far they’ve gone in the video, and how many topics remain.

June 2012 PRIMO Site of the Month